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A new initiative to foster medical research collaboration between the UK and Israel, as well as with other Middle Eastern states, has been set up in memory of a distinguished Jewish doctor killed in an air accident.
Lord Leslie Turnberg established the Daniel Turnberg Trust in memory of his son, a doctor and medical researcher who died in a 2007 airplane crash in Africa at age 37. The aim of the trust is to continue the keen interest Daniel Turnberg had in international medicine and to encourage greater understanding between Israel and the UK.
The initiative the trust is funding will allow for an exchange of young researchers between the UK and Israel and the Palestinian territories, as well as Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. The program will award up to Â£3,000 to allow researchers to access international perspectives, gain research experience, develop skills and learn about new methodologies and techniques. Participants all share a desire to forge international collaborations and to apply the knowledge they gain to the treatment of disease in their home countries.
"Every scientist participating in this scheme has an interesting story to tell. They all share a common passion for research and a desire to improve our understanding of medicine and healthcare," said the elder Turnberg. "It is scientific goals that bring them together, but their experiences and the connections they make during the exchange can reach beyond individuals and institutions to improve cultural understanding."
So far, 20 medical and bioscience researchers have participated in the project, which is run by the Academy of Medical Sciences, an independent academy that promotes advances in medical science.
"The academy sees great value in global collaborations that promote the free exchange of ideas and opinions among scientists and scholars in all countries and believes the neutrality of scholarly endeavor should transcend politics," said Academy of Medical Sciences president Prof. John Bell.
Among the participants is Dr. Gal Dubnov-Raz, who specializes in pediatric obesity, exercise and fitness at Hadassah-University Hospital in Jerusalem. Dubnov-Raz returned recently from a three-month stint at the Children's Health and Exercise Research Center at the University of Exeter.
"Pediatric exercise is practiced by only a handful of physicians in Israel," he said. "The fellowship allowed me to access a world-leading center in another country, which broadened my knowledge and fostered exciting academic collaborations for the future. There are few studies examining exercise in children with special health conditions, and I hope to fill this knowledge gap through the good relationships I have established."
Dr. Maralyn Druce, an endocrinologist from the London School of Medicine who is conducting research in the diagnosis and care of patients with endocrine cancers, spent a month at Israel's Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva.
"My work focuses on rare forms of endocrine cancers that have been increasing in recent years both in Israel and worldwide," Druce said. "Sharing current practice and ideas will promote a helpful two-way conversation and fruitful collaborations, both for scientific understanding and clinical research."
Another participant is Dr. Rasmi Abu-Helu from Al-Quds University in east Jerusalem, who spent a month in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Imperial College London.
"I was able to update a lot of my experimental knowledge and to extend my collaborative networks," Abu-Helu said. "The placement was important for me to avoid scientific isolation and to develop international links. I am leaving London with a great joy after a very successful mission."
The trust is currently considering applications for the next round of grants, which will begin in January 2010.